Ryan Garko, 26-year old first baseman for the surging Cleveland Indians, continued his success Friday night against interstate rival Cincinnati.
After thumping Cinci by the final score of 9-4 this evening, the Indians have improved to 25-14 on the season. They are now one-game ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central and 2.5 games behind the Red Sox for the best record in the American League.
The Tribe are an amazing 15-3 at Jacobs Field and 9-2 against their division foes. Center Fielder Grady Sizemore and designated hitter Travis Hafner headline the group of youngsters who have re-energized the city of Cleveland. A credible argument can be made that the Indians have the best young position players in the majors and will be among baseball's best teams for several years to come.
Last night in the battle of Ohio, Ryan Garko went two for three with a three-run home run and improved his average to .321. All-star center fielder Grady Sizemore went four for five with a two-run dinger, three runs batted in and three runs scored. A recent Sports Illustrated article by Tom Verducci stated that ''he's without a doubt one of the greatest players of our generation.'' If Sizemore can continue on his torrid pace he will in deed live up to the hype.
The rest of the Indians offense includes Travis Hafner who belted 42 home runs and drove in 117 runs last season while sporting a .659 slugging percentage and .439 on base percentage, all-star catcher Victor Martinez who consistently ranks among the best hitting catchers in baseball , 24-year old shortstop Jhonny Peralta who is mounting a strong comeback season after struggling last year, and 23-year old third baseman Andy Marte who has a bright future with the club.
When you sprinkle in veterans like Trot Nixon, David Dellucci and Casey Blake Cleveland's offense is a recipe for success.
Pitching wise the Indians starting rotation will not over power you, but they'll get the job done when counted on. Left-hander C.C. Sabathia is the ace of a staff that has combined to go 17-8 on the young season. C.C. has started off the season strong going 6-1 with a 3.65 ERA.
23-year old righty Fausto Carmona who went 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA last season, is now 5-1 with a 2.55 earned run average in seven games. In his last victory Thursday against the Twins he pitched a complete game shutout against baseball's best pitcher Johan Santana.
Still, for the Indians to win the division this year and advance far in the playoffs they will need to resolve their bullpen woes. Closer Joe Borowski is 0-2 this season with a nine ERA and twelve saves. Look for general manager Mark Shapiro to make a trade by the end of July if his pen continues to pitch ineffectively.